Friday, December 03, 2010


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I have been a fan of Steve Martin for a long time. He is truly a Renaissance man with his successful forays in acting, music and writing.  I really enjoyed SHOPGIRL and I was intrigued to hear about his latest literary offering.  Especially since it deals with the art world and I minored in art history in college.

AN OBJECT OF BEAUTY is told from the point of view of young art journalist Daniel Franks who feels compelled to write and unburden himself about his charismatic friend Lacey Yeager. The story is really Lacey's and the narrator doesn't appear very often in the story. Lacey is the quintessential New York Girl. The story begins in the late 1990's when Lacey is 28 and working in the bowels of Sotheby's. She soaks up as much knowledge about art as she can while angling to get ahead.  Her ambition drives her to use any means at her disposal to achieve her goals.  She climbs her way to the top through sheer talent and manipulation and manages to become an art dealer in her own right.  However, she does so in very turbulent times for the New York art world that include 9/11 and the financial loan crisis.

I really enjoyed this book because I love art and art history and I find the New York art world fascinating. If you have little to no interest on this subject, you may find the plot a little boring and hard to understand. Although my review copy did not have many pictures, it appears the final copy will include reproductions of many of the works mentioned in the story. This is a nice touch and helps the reader to better understand why the art affects the characters.  Although Lacey's tactics are often questionable, she somehow finds a way to be likeable.  I think this is one of the points the narrator tries to make. In spite of Lacey's shortcomings, she has a charisma and charm that keep the people in her life coming back for more.

My one complaint with the book would be that the ending seemed rushed and abrupt.  Everything wrapped up too quickly and I felt that the story was left hanging a bit. I did, however, think that the book gave an excellent snapshot of a specific place and time in the closed off rarified art world of New York City.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  Lovers of art and art history will find much to like here.  Martin delves into the ugly side of art collecting while recognizing why art is so compelling and drives so many to extremes. Lacey is a fascinating character who both repels and charms and I only wish we could have had a little more to the story so we aren't left hanging.


Jules said...

Oo, I can't wait to hear what you think of this book. I saw him on Regis and Kelly promoting it and it sounded really interesting.... but I'll wait to read your review before I run out for it!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This sounds good; I was hoping to read a review soon. I do enjoy Steve Martin.